21 October, 2012

Final Flight: George McGovern, 455th BG

Today, the world lost "One of the Good Ones."

George McGovern - U.S. politician, social servant and WW2 bomber pilot has died.

Undoubtedly, prominent people around the world will weigh in.  George had a giant life - war hero, statesman, international figure, candidate for "the world's most powerful office,"... and, according to my mom, was "a gawd-damned Democrat!"

That's how I learned he was a man of significance.  Mom didn't swear unless it was really important.

This is awkward because I feel compelled to write something but also realize that my experiences with George are insignificant in comparison...

So, I'll tell this story.

George and I were at a Ruby Tuesday having lunch.  I announced that "I'm buying," and he picked up the colorful drink menu, and flashed the wry smile of a gambler who realized he'd found a rube.  "You having anything?"  I reply, "No" because it's like, two in the afternoon.

The server arrived - young, sparkling with pins and buttons; knowing the appetizer of the day but having no clue who she's waiting on. George picked up the menu and pointed to this beautifully photographed blue concoction.  Only judging by the photo, it wasn't so much a drink as it was an event.
Chances are good you're familiar with the offering - thirty years ago, you'd get to keep the glass and the little umbrella.  And the drink's name ends with a ™ symbol.

"That." he says, pointing to the picture.  He lowered his head, peeked over the top of his glasses and asked/stated  "You're having something?"  He grins - and suddenly, it dawns on me that George McGovern is giving me...well, I hate to say this, but...he's giving me shit!  "Loosen up," he says and leans back into the vinyl booth.

I got the joke;  I then saw myself as I'd been, rigid, professional, uptight,  my notebook out, my pen at ready...George wasn't out for an interview.  He was out for lunch.

"I'll have a glass of wine."

"Good."  And then he picked up the lunch menu and pointed at the picture of what he wanted. "I'll have that." The server took her notes, glanced at me and I nodded, "Fine.  Me too."

So, I thought - Ok, if that's the way he wants it, I'll play ball.   I broke the conversational bread by announcing, "My mom is flipping in her grave right now that I'm having lunch with you."

It didn't phase him.  "Yes.  I've heard that one before.  But you want to know something?  Times change."  And, he removed his cell phone from his suit coat pocket.  Fumbling with the keypad, focusing his glasses, he squinted, scrunched his nose and finally presented the device to me.

There, illuminated in blue and white was a telephone number.  "That's Bob Dole's number.  Shall we call him?"


The server presented our drinks - mine a foul smelling house wine and George's, a beautiful blueish sculpture that maked me realize I missed out.  "You're kidding me!"  I exclaim, gulping a mouthful of my awful red swill.  He sips his blue whatever™.

"Bob is one of my best friends.  Can you imagine that?"  He smiled. Warmly.  "He and I work with Food for Peace.  We agree that kids need a good meal."  He took another sip and raised his glass as if to toast.

It was at that moment, right then and there, I became a McGovernite.  Not necessarily in belief but out of sheer respect for a Warrior who - quoting William Wallace's dad in the movie, Braveheart could "use (his) mind first (before resorting to the sword)."

George McGovern and Bob Dole.  Buddies.  And because they could agree that something could be bigger and more important than both of them.

Damn.  Wouldn't such single-mindedness between differing minds be nice right now?

Lunch was long.  He recalled WW2 bombing missions, the 1972 presidential election, the unfortunate power of advertising agencies - it was so cool to be talking to someone that was so there at such pivotal times in American history.

Anyway, mom - wherever you are in the eternal ether,  George McGovern may have been a damned Democrat.  But "Gawd" damned?

No.  I think God blessed him just fine.

Blue skies, George...

Original post here.